Iceland in January: What You Need to Know - Hotel Rangá


Green northern lights dance above Hotel Rangá luxury hotel in south Iceland.

Iceland in January: What You Need to Know

Dear friends of Hotel Rangá: Happy New Year! We are always happy to welcome a new year and the new beginnings it brings. Keep reading for our recommendations about how to start the year off on the right foot.

Iceland in January is a lovely time to explore the countryside and look for the northern lights. The temperature might be a bit chilly, but you can get warm in one of Hotel Rangá’s geothermal hot tubs. What’s more, January in Iceland marks the time of year when we really notice that the days are beginning to get longer. In fact, we gain almost 3 hours of daylight just in January alone.

Green northern lights dance above Hotel Rangá luxury hotel in south Iceland.
Green northern lights dance above Hotel Rangá. Photo by Herman Desmet.

What time is sunrise and sunset in January?

On January 1st, sunrise is at 11:19 and sunset is at 15:43. By January 31st sunrise is at 10:11 and sunset is at 17:11.

Is January a good time to visit Iceland?

Yes, January is a great time to visit Iceland. Though the days are getting longer, there is still plenty of darkness. This means lots of time to look for the northern lights. What’s more, there are several unique Icelandic traditions that take place during January. Keep reading to learn all about Iceland in January.

Guests at Hotel Rangá stargazing in the Hotel Rangá observatory that houses two high-quality telescopes.
Stargazing in the Hotel Rangá Observatory.

Can you go stargazing in January in Iceland?

January can be a wonderful month for stargazing in Iceland. On clear nights, we invite local astronomers to take our guests on a tour of the night sky in our Rangá Observatory. In fact, the observatory houses two high-tech telescopes which can be used to see celestial objects in excellent detail.

Green northern lights shining over a pond beside Hotel Rangá in south Iceland.
Green northern lights shimmering in the night sky. Photo by Herman Desmet.

What conditions are necessary to see the northern lights in Iceland?

January in Iceland is still prime northern lights season. To see the northern lights, we need clear skies and no solar activity. Helpful sites like make it possible to get an idea of whether the northern lights will appear. However, we can never truly predict if we will see the northern lights – it is part of their magic!

A green band of northern lights beside Hotel Rangá in south Iceland.
A green band of northern lights beside Hotel Rangá in south Iceland. Photo by Paige Deasley.

What is the weather like in Iceland in January?

January in Iceland is still firmly mid-winter. We often experience cold temperatures that are known to drop below freezing. What’s more, it is quite likely that we will see some snow and ice. It is especially beautiful to see the sun rise over the Rangá River when the landscape is covered with a fluffy layer of white snow.

Skálholt church covered in white snow.
Skálholt church covered in white snow.

What should I wear in January in Iceland?

Due to the chilly temperatures, it is essential to be well-dressed. Wool layers are a good idea, as well as sturdy shoes and a warm coat. Don’t forget your gloves and a cozy hat! If you want to be extra warm, buy a handmade lopapeysa sweater from a unique local shop. These sweaters have been worn by Icelanders for generations.

Icelandic horses rub their heads together on a snowy field in south Iceland.
Icelandic horses grow a shaggy coat in the wintertime which keeps them warm. Photo by Brent Darby.

What are the road conditions in Iceland in January?

Similar to December, January road conditions are dependent on the weather. It is possible to experience winter storms filled with wind and snow. Yet, January can also be filled with sunny – albeit chilly – days and clear roads. If the weather is severe, all affected roads will be closed. You can always check the road conditions at

Snow plows and ice salting trucks are constantly out on the roads, clearing away snow and ice. The Icelandic road authority does its best to clear the roads quickly and effectively so that everyone can get where they need to go. 

A paved country road in south Iceland with views of the glacier-volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
A paved country road in south Iceland with sweeping views of the glacier-volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Photo by Herman Desmet.

Should I rent a car in Iceland in January?

We always suggest that our guests rent a car – even during the wintertime. When you rent a car, you have more flexibility to explore at your own pace. Furthermore, renting a car in Iceland is almost always more cost effective. If you do rent a car in Iceland during the winter, be sure to confirm that the car will have winter tires. This is required by Icelandic law during the wintertime.

It is also possible to rent a larger car with 4 wheel drive. This means that the car has the possibility to power the front and rear wheel axles at the same time. This helps with traction and stability, particularly on icy or slushy roads.

If you do not want to rent a car, it is possible to utilize taxis during your time in Iceland. Simply contact the Hotel Rangá reception and we will assist you to book transportation from Keflavík International Airport. In south Iceland, there are several local drivers who can take you around the area. What’s more, many tour companies will include pickup for an additional cost.

Gourmet Icelandic lamb and potatoes on a white ceramic plate.
The Rangá Restaurant offers gourmet dining in an elegant setting. Photo by Ása Steinarsdóttir.

Where is the best place to stay in January in Iceland?

Hotel Rangá, of course! Our luxury property is located just off road 1 in the Icelandic countryside. When you stay with us, you can enjoy days filled with adventure and nights filled with gourmet dining, relaxation and fun. Hotel Rangá is located near all the top tourist sites and hidden gems on the south coast. What’s more, the Rangá Restaurant serves excellent fine dining for palates of all kinds. And if you are waiting for the northern lights to appear, head over to the Rangá Bar. Our bartenders can make you an excellent nightcap to enjoy while you wait.

Woman rides a snowmobile on the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in south Iceland.
A snowmobiling adventure on the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. Photo by Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir.

What are the best outdoor adventures in Iceland in January?

Despite the chilly temperatures, January in Iceland is a great time of year for outdoor adventures. We suggest you follow the common Icelandic saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” If you dress well, you can enjoy the Icelandic outdoors in any weather.

We always recommend that our guests take a drive down Iceland’s south coast. Visit beautiful waterfalls, unique rock formations and amazing black sand beaches. If you are in the mood for adventure, go on a snowmobiling tour across the Eyjafjallajökull glacier-volcano. January is also a great time to take a super jeep tour and explore the Icelandic highlands with an expert guide. Contact the Hotel Rangá reception, and we will help you to book all the best tours from trusted local tour operators.

Woman lounges in a Hotel Rangá geothermal hot tub as the sun shines on her.
Relax in Hotel Rangá’s geothermal hot tubs. Photo by Dylan Shu.

What are the best indoor adventures in Iceland in January?

In January, it is always a good idea to take some time to make sure you leave the stresses of the previous year behind you. Use your trip to Hotel Rangá to focus on relaxation and gathering your thoughts for the year ahead.

Have your worries float away in our outdoor hot tubs under the northern lights. Play pool with a friend in our game room and try Icelandic delicacies in our restaurant. Whether you eat slowly or with abandon is up to you – just remember to savor the moment.

Two girls dressed as elves stand in front of a bonfire in Iceland in January.
Bonfires burn bright. Photo by Eyrún Aníta Gylfadóttir.

Are there any special January traditions in Iceland?

The 6th of January or ‘The Thirteenth Night’ marks the end of Christmas. Icelanders all around the country celebrate with bonfires and the last of the New Years’ fireworks.

One bonfire takes place every year, at 8pm by Goðaland in Hotel Rangá’s neighboring Fljótshlíð. The event is called Álfadans or ‘elf-dance’ as the elves are rumored to be out and about on the thirteenth night after Christmas. Much like on New Year’s Eve, seals are said to shed their skins and walk the beaches for this occasion and cows speak in human voices. We recommend the bonfire over the cow-house – while Icelandic elves are friendly, the cows try to make their human listeners go mad.

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What foods do Icelanders eat in January?

Up until the year 1700, Icelanders had their own calendar year instead of the Gregorian one we use today. The Icelandic calendar consists of six months of winter and six months of summer. What’s more, each month has its own Icelandic name.

January 25th marks the beginning of the fourth month of winter, Þorri, during which time Icelanders celebrate by gorging on traditional Icelandic food at a special feast known as Þorrablót. Originally, Þorrablót was a pagan midwinter sacrifice, to Þór the Norse god of thunder. Today, Þorrablót is all about eating cured meat and fish products and drinking Icelandic brennivín – a traditional liquor.

If you are interested in attending a local Þorrablót, contact the Hotel Rangá reception. We can check to see if there are any Þorrablót celebrations during your time in Iceland. We do have to warn you – the food served at Þorrablót is often considered to be an acquired taste!

A glass of red and white wine beside a vase of lupine at the luxury Rangá Restaurant.
Hotel Rangá’s wine list is filled with excellent vintages from around the world. Photo by Ása Steinarsdóttir.

What is Bóndadagur in Iceland?

The 25th is Bóndadagur or husband’s-day. On Bóndadagur, Icelanders celebrate Icelandic men. Take part in the tradition by wishing male passerby a happy Bóndadagur during your travels. And be sure to make plans for February’s Konudagur, when the lady of the household is celebrated.

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